While any candy should be consumed in moderation at all times of the year – sugar free if possible – there are other factors to be aware of so that the Halloween holiday doesn’t have lingering effects.
Sugar is a known, major cause of tooth decay and cavities. Even after the candy bars are devoured and your child’s themed bucket or bag has been emptied, sugar and plaque lurk in the crevices of your child’s teeth and cause cavities. If not removed by brushing, bacteria in the mouth will feed on the sugars and turn them into acid. This acid then attacks tooth enamel and causes tooth decay, i.e. cavities.
Halloween is a time for children to enjoy, but you don’t want them to be paying for it in dental pain down the road.
Here are a few guidelines to safeguard your children’s teeth as they savor their sweets:
- Look for Halloween treats that can be eaten quickly, like miniature candy bars.
- Sugar free gums that use Xylitol, the all natural sweetener, are a great candy alternative. Chewing gum with Xylitol helps prevent cavities and also neutralizes the effects of sugar from the candy.
- When you get home from trick-or-treating, discard hard or sticky candies like sugared fruit snacks, caramels, popcorn balls or lollipops. It is hard for saliva to wash away these sticky sugars and they stay in the crevices of the teeth for long periods of time.
- It is not a good idea for children to graze on candy from after school until dinner time as this will increase the amount of time sugar comes in contact with teeth. Instead, encourage your child to eat a small amount in one sitting followed by a glass of water and thorough tooth brushing.
- Make sure that your children use an age-appropriate fluoridated mouthwash every evening to strengthen their teeth and rebuild the enamel which helps prevent cavities.
Watching the amount of sugar we consume is good advice at Halloween and year-round for young and old alike. According to the American Heart Association, women shouldn’t eat more than six teaspoons of sugar a day, about the amount of sugar in a candy bar, and men shouldn’t consume more than nine teaspoons a day. On average, Americans consume 22.2 teaspoons of sugar each day.
Regularly practice and encourage good oral health habits with your children, including brushing at least twice a day, flossing and visiting your dentist every six months to ensure the sugary villains don’t stick around on your children’s, or your teeth long after Halloween is over.